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The Old Testament closes a little over four hundred years before Christ (about 425 BC) with the Jewish people “being partially restored to their land,” and living under the dominion of the Persian Empire. The Jewish people had been living in exile in Babylon since about 605 BC… beginning in 538 BC, small groups of Jews started returning to their homeland. Seven different prophets ministered to God’s people during this time period: Daniel and Ezekiel ministered to the exiles in Babylon… while Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra, Nehemiah and Malachi ministered to the people who were returning to the land.
It was at the end of this era where the children of Israel entered into a period known as the “Intertestamental Period.” This 400 year period between the close of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament saw a number of significant changes: the people had greatly multiplied and were now dwelling together in the same land… rather than being under Persian rule, they were now under Roman rule with an Edomite king exercising jurisdiction over them. A number of incredible changes had taken place — religious, political, cultural and civil. The Old Testament closed with an exhortation to “remember the Law of Moses” (cf. Mal 4:4), as well as the promise to “send Elijah to Israel before the day of the Lord” — he would bring about reform in the lives of the people, that they might resemble their godly forefathers… if they did not, God would visit the land with a curse (cf. Mal 4:5-6).
After God delivered His final message through the prophet Malachi, He paused in His communications through men for some four hundred years. His silence must have been deafening to the Jewish people — some demanded that He act as He had always acted… others probably felt that man was too sinful to hear from Him, and that man’s lack of faith was the cause of His silence and apparent inactivity. The long and short of it is, God’s silence was a part of His eternal plan. He had spoken on numerous occasions and through various people, but He was now preparing to speak His greatest and most powerful Word to mankind through His Son, Jesus Christ. The “pause” added incredible emphasis to His monumental revelation.
The ways of God are beyond the grasp of man (cf. Is 55:8-9). The Architect of the universe is not without order and symmetry. Historically, God had generally allowed a desperate situation to arise before presenting His message or providing His deliverance. This pattern is repeated over and over again throughout Old Testament history; be it with Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Judges, Esther, Nehemiah, etc. The efforts of man had to be frustrated before God would intervene. God simply allowed His people to exhaust their resources, and then He would manifest Himself. Such is the way God continues to work in the lives of His children today — God usually waits until the wind blows and the storm rages before He shows up (cf. Jn 6:16ff); how else would we come to the end of ourselves and see ourselves for who we really are? Carefully read: Mt 26:30-35, 69-75; Lk 22:31-34; Jn 21:15-22; and Rom 7:14-20.
Video: (For Dr. Krause's class BNT101 New Testament Survey at Nebraska Christian College)
SUMMARY OF THE SILENT YEARS
The Intertestamental Period denotes the history of postexilic Judaism from the time of the Book of Malachi to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. This period was characterized by the struggle of the Jews in Palestine to attain political and religious autonomy from a series of dominant foreign powers… by the emergence of eight different movements within Judaism (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Scribes, Sanhedrin, Herodians, Zealots & Publicans)… by the process of Hellenization carried on by the Macedonians (Greeks) and Romans… and finally by the emergence of Christianity.
Intertestamental Judaism was characterized, not by a continuing stream of Old Testament prophecy (that had ceased), but by the interpretation of that revelation, and the correct exposition and application of it. The Jews were keenly aware the prophetic word (prophecy) had ceased. Most biblical scholars believe the Old Testament canon probably closed before 400 BC, and that by 75 AD the formation of the New Testament canon was nearly completed, and Judaism and Christianity had parted company. This is just a short summary of what transpired during this 400 year Intertestamental Period, but out of this period we saw the Jewish people fight for their Hebrew identity. The question was this: was their identity going to be compromised by the culture and the lives of nations that ruled over her? Were their values and beliefs going to be stubbornly hung onto and preserved through the coming ages, or would they abandon parts of them? Obviously the conflict among the Jewish people strongly influenced the coming New Testament world. There was a growing intensity — there was hope that a Messiah was going to come and deliver them from their oppressors, but there was also an intensity over this clash between those that would compromise to the ruling groups, and those who wanted to hang on to the traditional values that had become an integral part of their historical identity. So the 400 silent years were anything but silent in a number of ways. God was filling up the time (cf. Gal 4:4), getting things ready for the coming of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Persia and Greece were the dominant powers at the beginning of this period. Cyrus had founded the Persian dynasty (559-530 BC); he was succeeded by Cambyses (530-522 BC)… Darius I (522-486 BC)… Xerxes I (i.e., Ahasuerus — 486-465 BC)… and Artaxerxes I (465-424 BC) — those names are found numerous times in the historical books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel, Haggai, and Zechariah. When reflecting upon the “dates” of Old Testament history, it is import-ant to remember that the “date number” gets increasingly smaller as they approach the birth of Christ (for instance, 559 BC is 400 years further back in time that 159 BC). I state this because most people have a difficult time assessing “dates before Christ” (BC). To continue: Cambyses conquered Egypt in 525 BC, but his attempt to extend his rule over the Greek world failed when the Persians were defeated at Marathan (490 BC) and Salamis (480 BC). The Persian king Artaxerxes I was assassinated in 424 BC and Darius II ascended the throne.
Though Egypt threw off Persian control and began its 30th Dynasty in 380 BC… Araxerxes III led a victorious attack in 343 BC; thus permanently terminating the rule of the Pharaohs. At this point, the rise of Macedonia (Greece) as on the horizon — Philip II of Macedon (359-336 BC), the father of Alexander the Great, conquered numerous cities in the region… but while attending the wedding feast of his daughter, he was murdered (336 BC), and Alexander the Great (at the age of twenty) was chosen to be his father’s successor. Alexander crushed a revolt by Thebes (335 BC)… defeated the Persians at the battle of Granicus (334 BC)… conquered Tyre after a long siege (333-332 BC)… and then arrived in Egypt in 332 BC. He began the process of “hellinization” in the Near East by founding the city of Alexandria on the north shores of Egypt, his largest colony. After leaving Egypt, he defeated a vast army led by Darius, and thus became master of the Persian Empire. Alexander extended his empire as far east as India… but after returning to Babylon on his way back west, he developed a fever and died (323 BC).
As mentioned earlier in this study, when Alexander the Great died, his empire was divided among his leading generals: Ptolemy (Egypt); Seleucus (Babylon and Syria); Antipater and his son Casander (Macedonia and Greece); Antigonus (Phrygia and parts of Asia Minor); Lysima-chus (Thrace and Pergamum); and Eumanes (Pontus). A power struggle developed among them as they attempted to develop their own dynasties. Palestine assumed the role of a buffer state between the domains of Ptolemy and Antigonus; they were first under Ptolemaic rule (320-198 BC), and then under Seleucid rule until 142 BC, when Demetrius II granted them independence and freedom from tribute. Antiochus IV tried unsuccessfully to reimpose tribute but his death in 128 BC brought a final end to the Seleucid dynasty. The Jews actually enjoyed relative independence for about one hundred years (until 64 BC). When Pompey annexed Syria as a province of Rome in 64 BC, he then proceeded to Jerusalem in 63 BC and the Jews came under Roman rule; hence losing their political independence until recent times (the 20th century). For the record, Pompey was killed in a civil clash with Julius Caesar in 48 BC, and shortly thereafter Caesar was assassinated (44 BC). Octavian succeeded Caesar and defeated the rival forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra in 31 BC. Tiberius succeeded Augustus (Octavian), and Caligula, Claudius, and Nero were emperors in turn. Nero, who reigned from 54-68 AD, initiated the persecution of Christians by the Roman state — he was the emperor before whom Paul was brought on his first imprisonment at Rome, and in the persecution of Christians it is believed that Paul and Peter suffered martyrdom under his reign. Vespasian (69-79 AD) succeeded Nero, and under his direction Titus conquered Jerusalem in 70 AD and crushed Jewish resistance at Masada.
The process of Hellenization that was initiated by Alexander the Great, and later continued by the Romans, was of central importance in this period. As previously mentioned, Alexandria, Egypt, was Alexander’s first and greatest colony — a trading and administrative center on the shores of the Mediterranean. Other cities in the Mediterranean area that developed by colonization included Ephesus, Corinth, and Philippi. Such colonization brought with it the Greek language, Greek standards of weights and measures, coinage, and the gymnasium (from the Greek gymnasion), which was a public facility for sports that also provided instruction in philosophy, literature, and music.
THE PERSIAN ERA
This era actually dates back to Persia’s conquering Babylon in 536 BC, yet it continued on into the early years of the Intertestamental Period (397-336 BC). So the first thing Persia contributed to the people of Israel was a “foreign policy." You need to remember the history of the people of Israel — once Solomon goes off the scene, the kingdom splits into two kingdoms (Israel & Judah). Both of those kingdoms eventually are taken out of the land, and made subjects to foreign entities.
The northern kingdom of Israel is scattered all over the Assyrian empire, and later Babylonia conquers the southern kingdom of Judah and basically takes the people out of Judah (though not all of them, certainly the leading people) and settles them in Babylonia. Persia eventually conquers Babylonia and when they do, their foreign policy lets the people of Judah return to their homeland. So with Ezra and Nehemiah, we have people who have been in exile, returning home.
With the foregoing in mind, Persia was a strong influence over the Jewish people for some two hundred years (536-336 BC). God used Persia to deliver Israel from the Babylonian captivity (cf. Dan 5:30-31)… and allow the Jewish exiles to return to their land, rebuild it, and worship at the temple in Jerusalem (cf. 2 Chron 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4). These are significant things that Persia let the people of Israel do, and it is all related to that foreign policy that let them return to the land, and if they did not rebel, actually let them pretty much govern themselves.
For about one hundred years after the close of the Old Testament canon (425 BC), Judea continued to be a Persian territory under the governor of Syria with the High-Priest exercising a measure of civil authority. The Jewish people were allowed to observe their religious tenets without any outside governmental interference. Persia’s attitude was tolerant toward the Jewish remnant in Palestine until internal rivalry over the politically powerful office of High Priest resulted in partial destruction of Jerusalem by the Persian governor… other than that the Jewish people were pretty much left undisturbed by Persia during this period.
THE GREEK ERA
Between 334 BC and 331 BC, Alexander the Great defeated the Persian king, Darius III, in three decisive battles that gave him control of the lands of the Persian Empire. In many respects, Alexander the Great has been regarded by historians as perhaps the greatest conqueror of all time; he was far and away the central figure to this brief period — he conquered Persia, Babylon, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, as well as western India. Although he only reigned over Greece for thirteen years (he died at the age of thirty-three), his influence lived long after him.
The cherished desire of Alexander was to found a worldwide empire unified by language, custom, and civilization. Under his influence, the entire western world began to speak and study the Greek language — this process, called “Hellenization,” included the adoption of Greek culture and religion in all parts of the world. Hellenism became so popular that it persisted and was encouraged even through the Roman era and New Testament times.
The struggle that developed between the Jews and Hellenism’s influence upon their culture and religion was long and bitter. Alexander, however, permitted the Jews to observe their laws and granted them an exemption from taxes during their sabbatical years. It was Alexander’s goal to bring Greek culture to the lands he had conquered; he wished to create a world united by Greek language and thinking. This is the crucial element that Greece brought to the table — they brought a Greek culture that is both educated, and a multi-god worshiping culture; thus there were many gods in the land; they brought in magic and the onslaught of mystery religions… so the religious impact was big on the land.
Perhaps the most important impact Greece had, outside of culture, was that they brought the Greek language; and that language eventually became the language of the land. People actually became bilingual in a very short period of time. Ultimately this policy was dangerous to the religion of Israel, because the Greek way of life was attractive, sophisticated, and humanly appealing, but utterly ungodly — in that sense, it was very representative of our world today. Faithful Jews staunchly resisted the strong influence of pagan polytheism. Although the Greek language was sufficiently wide-spread by 270 BC, and resulted in the bringing about of a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) — this translation was called “the Septuagint” (more on that later).
THE EGYPTIAN ERA
When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, the Greek empire became divided into four segments under his four generals: Ptolemy, Lysimachus, Cassander, and Selenus. Ptolemy Soter, the first of the Ptolemaic dynasty, received Egypt and soon dominated nearby Israel. He dealt severely with the Jews at first, but toward the end of his reign and on into the rule of Ptolemy Philadelphus (his successor), the Jews were treated favorably.
It was during this time that the Septuagint was authorized. The policy of toleration followed by the Ptolemies, by which Judaism and Hellenism coexisted peacefully, was very dangerous for the Jewish faith. A gradual infiltration of Greek influence and an almost unnoticed assimilation of the Greek way of life took place. During this period Jewish worship was influenced to become more external than internal, a notion that had a lasting impact upon Judaism.
Two religious parties emerged: the pro-Syrian Hellenizing party, and the Orthodox Jews (in particular the Hasidim or “Pious Ones” — the predecessors of the Pharisees). A struggle for power between these two groups resulted in a polarization of the Jews along political, cultural, and religious lines. It was the same conflict that brought about the attack of Aniochus Epiphanes in 168 BC. The Jews had prospered until near the end of the Ptolemaic dynasty when conflicts between Egypt and Syria escalated. Israel was again caught in the middle. When the Syrians defeated Egypt in the Battle of Panion in 198 BC, Judea was annexed to Syria.
THE SYRIAN ERA
Under the rule of Antiochus III the Great and his successor Seleucus Philopater, the Jews came under the control of Syria… though treated harshly, they were nonetheless allowed to maintain local rule under their High Priest. All went reasonably well until the Hellenizing party decided to have the person they favored, Jason, replace the High Priest favored by the Orthodox Jews — they brought this about by bribing Seleucus’s successor, Antiochus Epiphanes.
This set off a political conflict that finally brought Antio-chus to Jerusalem in a fit of rage. So angry was Antiochus, that in 168 BC he set about to destroy every distinctive characteristic of the Jewish faith — he forbade all sacrifices, out-lawed the rite of circumcision, canceled the observance of the Sabbath and the offering of sacrifices, and disallowed the celebration of feast days… additionally, he mutilated and destroyed nearly every copy of the Hebrew Bible. Jews were forced to eat pork and make sacrifices to idols. His final act of sacrilege, and the one that spelled his ulti-mate ruin, was the desecration of the Most Holy Place by building an altar and offering a sacrifice to the god Zeus.
Many Jews died in the ensuing persecutions. Perhaps a reminder of God’s way of working with man is needed at this point — He creates or allows a desperate situation, then calls upon a special, faithful servant. Man, however, often attempts to rescue himself and seems to be almost at the point of success only to wind up in worse shape than before. This was about to happen in the life of God’s people the Jews. God was simply setting the stage for the coming of His Deliverer (the Lord Jesus).
THE MACCABEAN ERA
An elderly priest named Mattathias (he was of the house of Hasmon), lived with his five sons in a village just northwest of Jerusalem. When a Syrian official tried to enforce heathen sacrifice in that village, Mattathias revolted, killed a renegade Jew who offered a sacrifice, slew the Syrian official, and fled to the mountains with his family.
Thousands of faithful Jews joined him, and history records one of the most noble demonstrations of holy jealousy for the honor of God. After the death of Mattathias three of his sons carried on the Maccabean Revolt in succession: Judas (166-160 BC), Jonathan (160-142 BC), and Simon (142-134 BC). These men had such success that by 165 BC they had retaken Jerusalem, cleansed the temple, and restored biblical worship — this event is commemorated even today as the Feast of Dedication – [Hanukkah] – which Jesus Himself also celebrated (cf. Jn 10:22ff).
Though fighting against Syria continued in outlining areas, the Jewish people finally received their independence under the leadership of Simon in 142 BC. They experienced almost seventy years of independence under the reign of the Hasmonaean dynasty (the High Priesthood), the most notable leaders of which were John Hyrcanus (134-104 BC) and Alexander Jannaeus (102-76 BC).
The most significant religious development of this period resulted from a strong difference of opinion concerning the kingship and High Priesthood of Judea. For hundreds of years the position of High Priest was held by individuals of political strength rather than those who were descendants of Aaron… orthodox Jews resented this development. When John Hyrcanus became governor and High Priest, he conquered Transjordan and Idumaea and destroyed the Samaritan temple — his power and popularity led him to refer to himself as a king.
This flew in the face of the orthodox Jews, who by this time were called Pharisees (which literally means “separatists”); they recognized no king unless he was of the lineage of King David. Those who opposed the Pharisees and supported the Hasmonaeans were called Sadducees (they adopted their name from a Hebrew word meaning “righteous”). These names surfaced for the first time during the reign of John Hyrcanus who himself became a Sadducee.
THE ROMAN ERA
The independence of the Jews ended in 63 BC when a Roman general named Pompey conquered Syria and entered Israel.
When Aristobulus II of Israel, who claimed to be king of Israel, locked Pompey out of Jerusalem, the Roman leader in anger took the city by force, and in doing so he reduced the size of Judea. Antipater the Idumaean was appointed procurator of Judea by Julius Caesar in 47 BC. As some of you will recall, Antipater’s son Herod, eventually became the king of the Jews around 40 BC.
Although Herod the Great, as he was called, planned and carried out the building of the new temple in Jerusalem, he was a devoted Hellenist and hated the Hasmonaean family. Ultimately he killed every descendant of the Hasmonaeans, including his own wife (the granddaughter of John Hyrcanus)… as well as his own two sons (Aristobulus and Alexander). Remember, Herod was the man on the throne when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. During this era, the Pharisees believed in strict adherence to the Scriptures (the written law), as well as to the Misnah (the oral law), which sought to apply the written law to everyday life. Whereas the Pharisees were strongly connected with the Scribes, the Sadducees were strongly related to the High Priest; the priests seem to have tended toward the more social, political, and earthly aspects of their position (this position was obviously more attractive to the wealthy, socially minded Jewish leaders).
The reality is, there was a lot of material written during this period of time, especially in the Jewish community. The Jewish people were not only a highly educated people, they were strongly devoted to their culture and the tenets of Judaism; as such, they were a well-read people as well. The most significant material written during the Intertestament Era was the Apocrypha. The word Apocrypha is from the Greek ta apokrypha, meaning “the hidden things,” although there is no strict sense in which these books are hidden; hence the term Apocrypha has been somewhat confusing since the early days of the church. The Apocrypha was a group of about fifteen books; thirteen of them comprise the Old Testament Apocrypha: 1-2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Rest of Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (also titled the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach), Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, Additions to Daniel, Prayer of Manasses, and 1-2 Maccabees. Both the status of these books and the use of the term apocrypha have been in confusion since the early days of the church; in the broader sense the word apocrypha has come to refer to any “extra-canonical scripture.” The ancient rabbinic practice was to regard all such writings as “outside books,” and this designation was continued by Cyril of Jerusalem, who used Apocrypha in the sense of Scriptures outside the canon. Since the Jews uniformly denied canonical status to these books, they were not found in the Hebrew Bible… but the manuscripts of the LXX (the Septuagint) include them as an addendum to the canonical Old Testament. Oftentimes the author of these books concealed his own name and ascribed his work to an apostle or disciple (for whatever reason), thus compromising the acceptability of these books as indeed being divinely inspired (canonical).
These books were not recognized as Scripture (God-breathed writings) during the early years of the church; the Jews uniformly denied canonical status to these books, and so they were not found in the Hebrew Bible; but the manuscripts of the seventy authors (LXX) of the Septuagint (that is, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) included them as an “addendum” to the canonical Old Testa-ment. Likewise, in the second century AD, the first Latin Bibles were translated from the Greek Bible (which included the Septuagint) and so the Latin Bible also included the Apocrypha. Jerome’s “Vulgate” (that was the popular name given to the common Latin version of the Bible) distinguished the libri ecclesiastici and the libri canonici, with the result that the Apocrypha were accorded “secondary status.” At the Council of Carthage in 397 AD (some three hundred years after the last apostles died), Augustine was in attendance, and it was decided to accept the Apocrypha as having unqualified canonical status (with the exception of 1-2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh), and anyone who disputed this ecclesiastical decision was anathematized. The Reformers repudiated the Apocrypha as unworthy and contradictory to the doctrines of the uncontroverted canon; Martin Luther, however, admitted that they were “profitable and good to read.” Among Protestant communions, only the Anglican Church makes much use of the Apocrypha today. Regarding the material that is included in the Apocrypha, much of it speaks into history… therefore, if one is to understand many aspects of medieval life, it is necessary to study the Apocrypha. Moreover, by reading the Apocrypha one will gain important insights into the nature of Christianity during the postapostolic period. So, as one looks through this period of time, one cannot help but respect much of the material in these books. It is important to note that the Apocryphal books were not officially added to the Old Testament by the Roman Catholic Church until the Council of Trent in 1546 (just a few years prior to the Reformation), when it decided to make them an integral part of their Scriptures. Up until this time these books were understood to be deuterocanonical (secondary canon). During the Protestant Reforma-tion of the 16th century (this same period of time), the Reformers returned to the Hebrew rabbinic text, which did not include the deuterocanonical books. On the other hand, the Apocrypha were always a part of the Eastern Orthodox Scriptures, because Eastern Orthodoxy has always embraced the Greek Septuagint (the Hebrew Bible that had been translated into Greek during the 3rd century BC) as the official translation of the Bible (more on this later). Though most theologians do not view the apocryphal books as being “inspired by God” (i.e., God-breathed), the vast majority believe they have great value from a cultural and historical viewpoint, because they give understanding to the religious climate during the inter-testamental period, showing it to be a time of deep turmoil and religious conflict.
Another group of writings that needs mentioning is the Pseudepigrapha — these writing were basically a large collection of Jewish writings not included in the Old Testament canon, dating from 200 BC to about 200 AD (a four hundred year period); some of the writings contain legendary histories, psalms, and wisdom literature, and even some Christian additions. The material contains about sixty writings by anonymous authors. The books were never regarded by ancient Jewish rabbis as being the equivalent of Scripture (i.e., canonical); such has been the dominant position of the Christian Church since the first century as well. Obviously, there were a number of things written by different Jewish and Christian writers during the intertestamental period, but that doesn’t make the material “divinely inspired” any more than some present-day writing by a renowned Christian writer (cf. 2 Tim 3:16-17). The Pseudepigrapha tended to focus on the values and thoughts of people at the time in which they were written; such messages made life tolerable for the Jews… it reaffirmed belief in the sovereignty of God and in His care for His dispossessed people. It was the doctrine of God in these writings which was most influential. Influenced as the Jewish people were by ideas foreign to their biblical heritage, the Pseudepigraphal writers sought to remain true to this heritage, while developing and enriching it in ways which would answer the questions of the times in which they lived. Many theologians believe the theology of these writers is essentially a theology of hope. The value of the Pseudepi-grapha for Jews and Christians alike is considerable. Along with the Dead Sea Scrolls they form an indispensable background for understanding the developments which took place after the OT was written.
Then there were the Dead Sea Scrolls. We have heard a lot about these scrolls in our time because they were not discovered until 1947. Basically they reflect the thoughts and the ways and the practices of various separatist groups that pulled away from Rome and away from the common culture of the day, and frankly tried to preserve the values and things that they considered to be important. Another item that was shaped during this period of time was an edition of the Bible called the Septuagint (as mentioned above) — it is often abbreviated LXX (Roman numeral for “seventy”). The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) in 3rd century BC. It is alleged that seventy-two Jewish translators were sent from Jerusalem to Alexandria, Egypt, to produce a Greek version of the Hebrew Bible for Ptolemy II. The reason for identifying the Septuagint by the abbreviated numerals LXX, is the belief that 72 scholars (when rounded off it is “70”) produced this Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (the OT). By the time of Christ and the early church, Greek was the dominant language of the day… so it is only natural that the Septuagint rendering of the Old Testament would have been popular throughout the New Testament Church. Jesus Himself often quoted directly from the Septua-gint; thus the integrity of this translation is highly acclaimed and respected in the Christian world. Remember, the New Testament was also written in Greek — this was the language that dominated the Greco-Roman world during the first century, and was “the language of choice by God Himself to convey divine truth to the world.” Of all the languages in the world, no other language is as “exacting” and “precise” as New Testament Greek (commonly referred to as Koine Greek — the Greek language that was “spoken” by the common man… not Classical Greek — the scholarly language of philosophers, business and legal matters that were “written”). One might compare these two variations of the Greek lang-uage with the English language that is commonly spoken to Shakespearian English (if you’ve ever read Shakespeare, you’ll notice it is a very formal literary style that is more difficult to understand). It is fascinating to note that God chose to communicate divine truth to human beings through the language that common man spoke (Koine Greek), not through a language that only those who were “highly literate and educated” could understand. So God developed the Greek language to “convey doctrinal truth” in an extremely precise manner, that everyone could understand. The Old Testament language of Hebrew is a “picture language” (every word is basically a picture); thus it is an exceptional language for telling stories and describing historical events (as opposed to a highly doctrinal composition like the New Testament). Since the Greek language had come to be the dominant language of people all over the known world, the evangelization of people was now possible through one language. The Septuagint became a key tool in communicating both the Old & New Testaments to the world; as such it became a much quoted and much read edition throughout the Roman Empire. By the way, the English language takes on a character much like that of Greek (as opposed to Hebrew), in that it is also “a very definitive language;” thus, it is “the language of science” in our world today.
Discoveries of manuscript fragments at various locations in Palestine have made a great contribution to the study of the Intertesta-mental Period. The scrolls found at Qumrân in 1947 consist of Scripture texts and commentaries… Hebrew and Aramaic portions or transcripts of apocryphal, targumic, and pseudepigraphical literature, some of it previously known only in Greek… sectarian documents that had long disappeared; etc. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the recovery of the Essene library at Qumrân is filling many gaps in intertestamental history and Christian antecedents and forms an immensely valuable area of biblical study. Other Judean caves have yielded fragmentary manuscripts, letters and coins. Remains of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic manuscripts from the Cave of Horror, and the caves at Naaleelim have also been helpful. Even more impressive are the discoveries from the Cave of Letter — small fragments of Psalms 15 & 16, Numbers 20:7f, and letters written by Simon Bar Cochba to his cohorts (Bar Cochba was the last of the Hebrew leaders to spearhead a major revolt against Rome — though his efforts initially succeeded, ultimately they failed and he was killed in 135 AD). The cave at Wâdī Murabbaât contained a scroll of the Minor Prophets, other biblical books, and papyri in Greek, Latin and Arabic. The excavations carried on at Masada from 1963–1965 under the direction of Yigael Yadin, discovered fragments of biblical scrolls including Genesis, Leviticus, Deuter-onomy, and Ezekiel. Non-biblical fragments included a small portion of the book of Jubilees in Hebrew and large fragments of chapters 39–44 of the Hebrew original of Sirach. The significance of these findings are helpful on many levels, and provide us with a clearer understanding of the intertestamental period. Regarding the various Old Testament books that are accepted as “canonical” (divinely inspired) in the Christian world, God obviously directed its outcome and placed those books there that He inspired. As the psalmist writes, “Forever Thy word is settled in heaven, O Lord” (Ps 119:89). The Lord Jesus Himself said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Mt 24:35). The prophet Isaiah writes, “The word of our God stands forever” (Is 40:8), as does the apostle Peter, “The word of the Lord abides forever” (1 Pet 1:25). As asserted throughout this study, if you take the Lord out of the picture, you will come up with all kinds of conflicted ideas and thoughts and even begin to wonder what “truth” really is; obviously that’s a dead end street. If you demand to arrive at the pinnacle of divine knowledge with human wisdom, you will never get there. Never. Make God preeminent in your thinking and truth will reign in your soul.
THE APOCRYPHA & PSEUDEPIGRAPHA
A vast amount of Jewish literature written during the intertestamental period (mainly the two centuries prior to Christ), and the first two centuries of the early church, was basically preserved through various Christian churches. A part of this literature is commonly referred to today as the Apocrypha (hidden books; hence, secret books). These books are largely Jewish literature and history, and are not directly relevant to Christian doctrine; that is, they are not considered inspired or authoritative. The Apocrypha were well-known in the Jewish community during the two centuries prior to Christ, and had been included in the Greek translation of the Hebrew canon, which was known as the Septuagint (this translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, by a group of Jewish scholars, took place in Alexandria, Egypt, around 250 BC), but were not included in the Hebrew canon as decided upon the Jewish rabbis in 90 AD. It should also be noted, at the end of the 4th century AD, when the bishop of Rome (Damasus) commissioned the biblical scholar Jerome to prepare a Latin version of the Scriptures, he asked him to translate the apocryphal books as well. Jerome did so only under protest, because he knew these books were not a part of the Hebrew canon — as such, he essentially recognized the Apocrypha as having only secondary status. Remember, Jerome followed the Greek Jewish canon (the Septuagint) and then added a second category for apocryphal books. Furthermore, Jerome translated the Scriptures into Latin from the Greek translation of the Old Testament; i.e., the Hebrew Bible (the Septuagint)… so the Latin translation is actually “a translation of a translation,” and not a translation of the original Hebrew Scriptures. Obviously Jerome wasn’t a student of Hebrew, but since he was well versed in Greek, he translated the Old Testament into Latin using the Greek translation of it (the Septuagint). Years later, subsequent copyists (for whatever reason) frequently failed to state that the Apocrypha were secondary or additional works. Augustine, who also lived in the 4th century, accepted most of the Apocrypha as Scripture, but maintained that they had secondary status compared with other Old Testament books.
It is also interesting to note, at one time in the early church the term “Apocrypha” was actually used for books that were not regarded by its leaders as being canonical (that is, of divine origin, God-breathed, divinely inspired)… in modern usage, however, the term Apocrypha is reserved for those Jewish books that are referred to in the Roman Catholic Church as deuterocanonical works; i.e., those works that belong to a “second” (deutero) or subsequent canon for Catholics, but are not a part of the Jewish Bible — remember, the Apocrypha were admitted into the canon “years after” all the other books; not at the same time. As previously mentioned, these works are also regarded as canonical in the Eastern Orthodox churches, because this church of Greek origin (and the Greek language) uses the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) as its version of Scripture (just as we in America use an English translation as our version of Scripture). When the Protestant churches in Europe returned to the Jewish canon (Hebrew Old Testament) during the Reformation period in the 16th century, the Catholic deuterocanonical works became for them “apocryphal” (i.e., non-canonical) — it should also be remembered, these books were not officially added to the Old Testament in the Roman Catholic Church until 1546 at the “Council of Trent” (just a few years prior to the Reformation). So, it is always helpful to keep “context” in mind when evaluating this issue.
In 19th century biblical scholarship, a new term was coined for those ancient Jewish works that were not accepted as canonical by either the Catholic or Protestant churches; such books are now commonly called Pseudepigrapha (meaning, “falsely inscribed;” singular = pseudepigraphon); that is, books wrongly ascribed to a biblical author. The term Pseudepigrapha, however, is not an especially well suited one — not only because the pseudepigraphic character is not restricted to the Pseudepigrapha alone, but because not all Pseudepigrapha are ascribed to any author; thus many of them are anonymous treatises. Theoretically, the name Pseudepigrapha can designate all ancient Jewish writings that are not canonical in the Catholic or Protestant Church. The writings of the philosopher Philo of Alexandria (1st century BC – 1st century AD) and the renowned 1st century historian Josephus and fragments of other post-biblical Hellenistic Jewish historians and poets are usually excluded. Furthermore, four centuries of Rabbinic literature (2nd century BC thru 2nd century AD) also is generally excluded; the reality is, much of this literature existed for centuries only in oral form. In addition to the foregoing, some of the Jewish Pseudepigrapha were discovered only in the last two centuries, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (the first of them) was not discovered until 1947, most of which belong to this category, and still not yet all published. Thus, in the broader meaning of the terms, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha are a block of Jewish literature written in antiquity from the later Persian period (4th century BC) and not canonized by the Jewish community.
Of all the literature extant today only the Apocrypha (contained in Latin and Greek Bibles) were read in the liturgical services of the church. The Pseudepigrapha, in their various versions, were in most cases nearly forgotten; and manuscripts of most of them have only been rediscovered in modern times — a process that continues to this day. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumrān in the Judaean desert in 1947, not only furnished new texts and fragments of unknown and already known Pseudepigrapha, but also contributed solutions to problems concerning the origin of other Jewish religious writings (including some Old Testament books), the connection between them, and even their composition and redaction from older sources. The new original texts also strengthened interest in the Jewish literature of the intertestamental period because of its importance for the study of both ancient Judaism and early Christianity. As a result of such discoveries, better critical editions of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, as well as new studies of their content, have been published.
The Apocrypha, whose texts originated mostly before the rise of Christianity, were regarded as canonical in the early church and did not possess any Christian interpolations (alterations). On the other hand, many of the Pseudepigrapha were interpolated by Christian writers; that is, new material had been added to many of these texts. The nature and the extent of these Christian interpolations are often difficult to define since a Christian interpolator not only changes the text according to Christian views or introduces specific Christian terminology but also may introduce in a Jewish text ideas, motifs, or terminology that are common to both Judaism and Christianity. For these reasons it is sometimes difficult to decide if a passage in a pseudepigraphon, or even sometimes the whole work, is Jewish or Christian. Once again, keep in mind that none of the Pseudepigrapha works have any canonical value in either the Jewish or Christian communities.
Some of the Apocrypha (e.g., Judith, Tobit) may have already been written in the Persian period (6th – 4th century BC), but with a few possible exceptions, all the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha were written in the Hellenistic period (300 BC – 300 AD)… yet the influence of Persian culture and religion sometimes can be detected even in comparatively late Jewish apocalyptic works. The Persian influence was facilitated by the fact that both the Jewish and Persian religions are iconoclastic (against the veneration or worship of images) and opposed to paganism and display an interest in eschatology (doctrines of last times). Although such an affinity did not exist between Judaism and Hellenistic culture, literary activity among Hellenistic Jews was generally Greek in character: the Greek-writing Jewish authors thought mainly in Greek concepts, used genuine Greek terminology, and wrote many of their works in Greek literary forms.
Though Hellenistic Jewish authors sometimes imitated biblical forms, they learned such forms from their Greek Bible (the Septuagint). Many Greek products written by Jewish writers served as religious propaganda and probably influenced many pagans to become proselytes, or at least to abandon their heathen faith and become “God-fearing.” Thus, the Jewish literature written in Greek could be used by Christianity for similar purposes later. Greek influence on Jewish writings written in Hebrew or Aramaic in Palestine in the intertestamental period was by no means as significant as upon Jewish works written in Greek among the Hellenistic Diaspora (Jews living outside Palestine). In Palestine, religion and culture formed a unity, and the Hellenization of the upper classes in Jerusalem before the Maccabean wars (167–142 BC) was restricted to some families who had accepted Greek civilization for practical purposes. Jews in Palestine developed a flourishing autonomous culture based upon religious ideals. Living without interruption in their powerful religious tradition and with their own non-Greek education, the Palestinian Jews were able to produce literary works without significant evidences of Greek influence. The language of this literature was both Aramaic and Hebrew. Under the national revival in the Maccabean period (the 2nd century BC), Hebrew became prevalent as the language of Jewish literature in Palestine; but since Aramaic was a spoken language in Palestine during the whole period, some of the extant literary works of Palestinian Jews in the Maccabean and Roman period probably were originally written also in Aramaic.
Brief Descriptions of the Apocryphal BooksFirst Esdras – This book is someone's attempt to revise the canonical book of Ezra, supplementing it with material from the last two chapters of 2 Chronicles and the last two chapters of Nehemiah, and with an entertaining tale about three young courtiers who debate the question, "What is the strongest thing in the world?" The debate is held before the king of Persia, and the winner is to get a prize. The first maintains that it is wine; the second that it is the king himself; the third argues with some irony and humor that women are stronger than either wine or kings, but that "truth" and "the God of truth" are by far strongest. Truth is one of the central concepts of Persian religion and the competition itself is before a Persian king; thus it seems likely that the story is Persian in origin and that it became Jewish by the identification of the third youth who turns out to be none other than Zerubbabel, who for his prize receives generous help from the king in rebuilding Jerusalem. This book enjoyed considerable popularity in the early church but lost its prestige in the Middle Ages in the Latin Church. At the reforming Council of Trent (1545-1563), the Roman Catholilc church no longer recognized it as canonical.
Second Esdras – Also called the Ezra Apocalypse. This is a typical Jewish apocalypse, probably first written in Greek about AD 100. Some hold that it was originally written in Hebrew. It appears to be a composite work, compiled of two or three sources. Around AD 120 it was edited by an unknown Christian, then translated into Latin. The Christian editor added some introductory and closing chapters in which reference is made to Christ, but the original Jewish composition was not changed in any important respect. This book was not included in Septuagint manuscripts, so the Greek text has been lost. The most important witness to the original text is the Latin version, which was included in medieval manuscripts of the Vulgate. The book consists mostly of dialogues between Ezra and angels sent to him to answer his urgent theological questions about the problem of evil, and in particular the failures and afflictions of Israel. All of this is presented as if written long before by Ezra and hidden away. The book was obviously written as an encouragement to the Jews, who had recently suffered the destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70). It also includes some symbolical prophecies concerning the Roman empire, in which Rome is figured as a three-headed eagle that oppresses the world and is finally destroyed by a roaring lion (a figure of the Messiah). There is a fantastic story of how the Hebrew Scriptures were all destroyed in the Babylonian exile and then perfectly restored by the miraculous inspiration of Ezra as he dictated all of the books to five scribes over a period of forty days. Along with the canonical books, Ezra dictates 70 secret books that are to be reserved for the wise. Second Esdras is presented as being one of these secret books. Martin Luther omitted First and Second Esdras from the Apocrypha of his German Bible in 1534, and both books were also rejected by the Roman Catholics at the Council of Trent in 1546… nevertheless, they were ultimately included in the Apocrypha of the King James version.
Tobit – This is a didactic and romantic tale written in Aramaic probably around 200 BC, and later translated into Greek. Fragments of the Aramaic text were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The story is of a Jewish family taken to the capital city of Persia, Nineveh, during the Babylonian captivity. Tobit, the blind father, sends his son Tobias on a journey to collect a debt. On his way Tobias is led by an angel in disguise (Raphael) to the house of a virgin who had been married seven times, but whose husbands were all slain by a demon on their wedding night. Tobias marries the girl and drives away the demon by burning the heart of a certain fish in the bedroom, and with the help of Raphael. He returns home with the money and his bride, and then heals his father's eyes by applying the gall of the fish to them. The story is sprinkled with pious observations and exhortations, and concludes with Tobias' departure from Nineveh, which, after the natural death of Tobit, is destroyed in judgment. The book contains prayers, psalms, and aphorisms, most of them put in the mouth of Tobit. It is the oldest Jewish witness to the “golden rule” (Tobit 4:15) — “what you hate, do not do to anyone.” Eschatological hopes are also described: at the end of time, all Jewish exiles will return, Jerusalem will be rebuilt of precious stones and gold, and all nations will worship the true God. In these eschatological images, however, the figure of the Messiah does not occur.
Judith – The Book of Judith is similar to the biblical Book of Esther in that it also describes how a woman saved her people from impending massacre by her cunning and daring. The name of the heroine occurs already in Genesis 26:34 as a Gentile wife of Esau, but in the Book of Judith it evidently has symbolic value. Judith is an exemplary Jewish woman. It is a story about a beautiful young widow named Judith (meaning "Jewess") who saves her city from a military siege. She goes out to the enemy commander's camp, allures him, gets him drunk, and then cuts off his head while he sleeps in his tent. She returns with his head and shows it to her people, exhorting the men to go forth and rout the enemy, which they do. The book speaks about the victory of Nebuchadnezzar “who reigned over the Assyrians at Nineveh,” in the time of an unknown Arphaxad, king of the Medes. Throughout this story Judith is presented as a woman who is virtuous, pious, and beautiful, and very keen to observe the Law of Moses. The Jews were not threatened again during Judith’s lifetime (she lived to be 105), or long after. This book was written about 150 BC in Hebrew, and soon translated into Greek. The Hebrew text is lost.
Additions to Esther – The Hebrew Book of Esther had a religious and social value to the jews during the time of Greek and Roman anti-Semitism, though the Hebrew short story did not directly mention God’s intervention in history. To bring the canonical book up-to-date in connection with contemporary anti-Semitism and to stress the religious meaning of the story, additions were made in its Greek translation. These Greek additions are (1) the dream of Mordecai (Esher’s uncle), symbolic vision written in the spirit of apocalyptic literature; (2) the edict of King Artaxerxes against the Jews, containing arguments taken from classical anti-Semitism; (3) the prayers of Mordecai and of Esther, containing apologies for what is said in the Book of Esther — Mordecai saying that he refused to bow before Haman (the grand vizier) because he is flesh and blood and Esther saying that she strongly detests her forced marriage with the heathen king; (4) a description of Esther’s audience with the King, during which the King’s mood was favorably changed when he saw that Esther had fallen down in a faint; (5) the decree of Artaxerxes on behalf of the Jews, in which Haman is called a Macedonian who plotted against the King to transfer the kingdom of Persia to the Macedonians; and (6) the interpretation of Mordecai’s dream and a colophon (inscription at the end of a manuscript with publication facts), where the date, namely “the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy and Cleopatra” (i.e., 114 BC) is given. This indicates that the additions in the Greek Esther were written in Egypt under the rule of the Ptolemies. So these six long paragraphs inserted in the Septuagint version of Esther in several places, and are thought to be the work of an Egyptian Jew writing around 170 BC. They are designed to provide the book with a more religious tone, and to make it clear that it was for the sake of their piety that the Jews were delivered from the evil designs of the Gentiles related in the canonical book. These additions were put at the end of the book by Jerome when he made his Latin translation because he accepted only the Hebrew text as canonical.
Wisdom of Solomon – Sometimes called simply Wisdom. This book is a collection of theological and devotional essays first written in Greek by an Alexandrian Jew about 100 BC, but presented in such a way that they seem to be discourses of King Solomon. The author com-pares Jewish religion with Greek philosophy, and shows faith to be the highest form of wisdom. The book is edifying and worthy of much respect. It has often been quoted by Christian writers in the past.
Ecclesiasticus – originally called The Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach, or simply Sirach. Written first in Hebrew about 200 BC by a wisdom teacher named Joshua Ben Sirach, and translated into Greek by his grandson around 135 BC. The book consists mainly of proverbs and other wise sayings about common life, strung together in short discourses or organized in topical sections. It also contains longer discourses about religious life and faith, which are well worth the read. It came to be called Ecclesiasticus (the "churchly" book) because in early times it was often read in church services, being the most highly regarded of the apocryphal books. This book should not be confused with the canonical Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes.
Baruch – The apocryphon of Baruch, which now only exists in Greek and was included in the Septuagint, is attributed to Baruch, secretary to the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah in the 7th-6th century BC. It was Baruch who read Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon. After hearing his words, the Jews repented and confessed their sins. The first part of the Book of Baruch (1:1-3, 8), contains a confession of sins by the Jewish people following the destruction of Jerusalem and the exiles’ prayer for forgiveness and salvation, may date from the Persian or at least from the pre-Maccabean period. This early section was originally written in Hebrew and seems to be very ancient. The other two parts (3:9-4:4 and 4:5-5:9) were written in Greek or freely translated from Hebrew or Aramaic. The first is a praise of wisdom: only Israel received wisdom from God, which is the Law of Moses. The last part of the book contains Jerusalem’s lament over her desolation and her consolation. The Book of Baruch is a composite book of five chapters, in which there are exhortations against association with idolatry, celebration of the Law as God's "wisdom," and encouragements and promises to faithful Jews, collected together and edited probably about 150 BC. The material is presented as if by Baruch, the disciple of Jeremiah, during the time of the Babylonian exile.
Letter of Jeremiah – Often printed as Chapter 6 of Baruch, this short work purports to be a letter from Jeremiah to the Jews in exile in Babylon, but this is generally regarded as an imposture, or a mere literary device used by an author writing around 200 BC. The letter attacks the folly of idolatry as did Jeremiah’s letter “to those who were to be taken to Babylon as cap-tives.” So this letter essentially is a short tract against pagan idolatry, and makes much use of ridicule and sarcasm.
Song of the Three Holy Children (including The Prayer of Azariah). An embellishment of the ordeal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) recorded in the canonical book of Daniel, designed to be added after verse 23 of the third chapter. These are the prayers of the three young men who praised God after they had been placed in the midst of the fiery furnace during a persecu-tion of Jews in Babylon, as told in the Book of Daniel. The first prayer is said by Azariah alone; the second one is a prayer of thanksgiving said by all three after having been saved by God. Essentially this book consists of prayers and hymns of the sort which might have been offered to God by the three while in the furnace.
The Story of Susanna – The second addition to Daniel, the story of Susanna, and the third one, Bel and the Dragon, are preserved in two Greek versions. In both stories the hero is the wise Daniel. Susanna was the pious and beautiful wife of Joakim, a wealthy Jew in Babylon. Two lecherous old judges became inflamed with love for her — they tried to force her to yield to their lust, and when she refused they publicly accused her of committing adultery with a young man, who escaped. At a trial they give false testimony and she is condemned to death by the council of elders, but Daniel the prophet was divinely inspired to know the facts of the case, and he crossexamined the two elders separately — the first stated that Susanna had been surprised under a mastic tree, the other under a holm tree. Thus Susanna was saved and the two false witnesses executed. This story was inserted between chapters 12 & 14 in the Septuagint version of Daniel, and at the beginning of the book in Theodotion's version.
Bel and the Dragon – This is a combination of two stories which were also attached to Daniel in the Septuagint, at the end of the book. The story of Bel concerns a Babylonian idol of that name, to which the people daily provided him with much food, but Daniel refused to make an offering to it. When he was challenged, he told the Persian king that the vain idol had no need of offerings because it could not eat anything. The king then required the priests of Bel to prove otherwise or die. The priests tried to deceive the king by entering the temple of Bel at night through a secret entrance and eating the food-offerings themselves, but they were exposed by Daniel, who had spread ashes on the temple floor, revealing their footprints. The priests of Bel were then slain and their temple destroyed. The Babylonians also worshipped a dragon, but Daniel declined to worship him as well. To destroy the beast, Daniel boiled pitch, fat, and hair together: the dragon ate it and burst asunder. After Daniel’s sacrilege of slaying the dragon, the King was forced to cast Daniel into the lions’ den, but nothing happened to him. Indeed, he was given a dinner by the prophet Habakkuk, who was brought there by the hair of his head by an angel. On the seventh day the King found Daniel sitting in the den, so he led Daniel our and cast his enemies into the den, where they were devoured. The two stories are an attack against idolatry. As the addition ends with the story about Daniel in the lions’ den, it is probable that this short treatise originated in a tradition that was parallel to the canonical Book of Daniel and that the two stories were translated from a Hebrew or Aramaic original. Both of these stories were evidently written around 150-100 BC.
The Prayer of Manasseh – This is a psalm of repentance, composed to suit the situation of Manasseh, the wicked Judean king who was carried captive to Babylon (cf. 2 Chron 33:11-18, where the psalm was probably intended for insertion in the Septuagint). This book was rejected by the Roman Catholics at the Council of Trent in 1546.
First Maccabees – The first two of the four books of the Maccabees are deuterocanonical (accepted by the Roman Catholic Church). In the First Book of the Maccabees the author mentions Alexander the Great, then moves on to the Seleucid king of Syria, Antiochus Epiphanes (who died in 164-163 BC), and his persecution of the Jews in Palestine, the descration of the Jerusalem Temple, and the Maccabean revolt. After the death of the priest Mattathias, who had refused to obey Antiochus, his son Judas Maccabeus succeeded him and led victorious wars against the Syrian Greeks. Exactly three years after its profanation by Antiochus, Judas captured the Temple, cleansed and rededicated it, and in honor of the rededication initiated an annual festival (Hanukah) lasting eight days. After Judas later fell in battle against the Syrian Greeks, his brother Jonathan succeeded him and continued the struggle. Only in the time of Simon, Jonathan’s brother & successor, did the Maccabean state become independent. A short mention of the rule of Simon’s son John Hyrcanus I (135-104 BC) closes the book. The author, a pious and nationialistic Jew and an ardent adherent of the family of Maccabees, evidently lived in the time of John Hyrcanus. The book imitates the biblical style of the historical books of the Old Testament and contains diplomatic and other important (though not necessarily authentic) official documents. This book was written in Hebrew about 100 BC, and soon afterwards translated into Greek. The Hebrew text was seen by Jerome, but is now lost. It is a sober but stirring historical account of Jewish history from 175 BC to 135 BC, during which time the Jews of Palestine fought for and gained national independence from their Greek overlords. It is highly regarded by historians as a source of accurate information.
Second Maccabees – This book is not a sequel to First Maccabees, but a different account of many of the same events related in that book down to 161 BC, combined with many fanciful and legendary additions. The writer's interests are religious rather than historical, and he uses the history as a backdrop for advancing religious ideas current among the Jews of Alexandria during the first century BC. The book is preceded by two letters to the Jews of Egypt: the first from the year 124 BC and the second written earlier (164 BC) commemorating the rededication of the Temple. In the preface of the book, the author indicates that he has condensed into one book the lost five-volume history compiled by Jason of Cyrene. Second Maccabees describes the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes and the Maccabean wars until the victory of Judas Maccabeus over Nicanor, the commander of the Syrian elephant corps in 161 BC. Descriptions of the martyrdom of the priest Eleazar and of the seven brothers under Antiochus, in which Greek dramatic style is linked with Jewish religious spirit, became important for Christian martyrology. The book also furnished proof texts for various Jewish and subsequently Christian doctrines (e.g., doctrines of angels and the resurrection of the flesh). Second Maccabees is generally thought to be later than First Maccabees, but earlier than AD 70. Some statements in this book support the Roman Catholic teachings on purgatory, prayers for the dead, and the intercessory work of glorified "saints."
The “extra books” which were eventually received as Scripture in the Greek Orthodox church and those received in the Roman Catholic church do not correspond exactly to the list of books commonly called "Apocrypha" by Protestants (if you will click on the "icon" in the upper right hand corner of this study, you will be able to look at a "pdf version" of this study -- in that rendition of this study is a "chart" that outlines all of the Apocrypha books and how each of the major elements of Christendom view them -- be it, Greek Orthodoxy, Protestantism, or Roman Catholic; I mention that here because the "chart" didn't transmit when uploading it on to my website). The Protestant Apocrypha includes all of the books normally included in manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate. But three of these (1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh) were omitted from the list published by the Council of Trent in 1546 when it fixed the Roman Catholic canon. The Eastern Orthodox churches (including the Greek, the Russian, the Ukrainian, the Bulgarian, the Serbian, the Armenian, and others) do not receive 2 Esdras because it was not in the Septuagint, and they receive some books which were present in many manuscripts of the Septuagint but not in the Vulgate (Psalm 151, and 3 & 4 Maccabees).
The foregoing study has been a brief description of the various historical elements that took place during the Intertestamental Period, and their impact upon the New Testament world. Some of you may want to study this era in greater depth because of its strategic importance on the development of the Christian Church. Though it was a period of significant action, when one keeps everything in its proper light, one cannot help but see the hand of God orchestrating all that took place… thus when one studies the teachings of Christ and the New Testament apostles, its interpretive application becomes ever more apparent & understandable. Familiarizing yourself with the Intertestamental Period will give you a contextual background that will give integrity to your understanding of the many teachings in the New Testament — with that in mind, you may want to peruse this material once again.